Sabtu, 25 Oktober 2014

Hands on: Nexus 9 review

Hands on: Nexus 9 review

The Nexus 9 by HTC is a PGEgaHJlZj0iaHR0cDovL3d3dy5ob3N0aW5na2l0YS5jb20NIiB0YXJnZXQ9Il9ibGFuayIgcmVsPSJub2ZvbGxvdyI+dGFibGV0IDwvYT50aGF0J3MgYmVlbiBhIGxvbmcgdGltZSBjb21pbmcuIEl0J3MgdGhlIHVwZGF0ZWQgTmV4dXMgNywgaXQncyB0aGUgcmVib290ZWQgTmV4dXMgMTAsIGFuZCBpdCdzIHRoZSBOZXh1cyA4IHRvby48L3A+PHA+VGhlIDxhIGhyZWY9Imh0dHA6Ly93d3cuaG9zdGluZ2tpdGEuY29tDSIgdGFyZ2V0PSJfYmxhbmsiIHJlbD0ibm9mb2xsb3ciPnRhYmxldCA8L2E+c2VlbXMgdG8gaGF2ZSBiZWVuIHRocm91Z2ggYSBudW1iZXIgb2YgaW50ZXJuYWwgaXRlcmF0aW9ucywgbW9zdGx5IGJlY2F1c2UgdGhlIDxhIGhyZWY9Imh0dHA6Ly93d3cuaG9zdGluZ2tpdGEuY29tDSIgdGFyZ2V0PSJfYmxhbmsiIHJlbD0ibm9mb2xsb3ciPnRhYmxldCA8L2E+bWFya2V0IGhhcyBldm9sdmVkIHNvIHJhcGlkbHkgb2YgbGF0ZS4gSXQgc2F3IFBHRWdhSEpsWmowaWFIUjBjRG92TDJodmMzUnBibWRyYVhSaExtTnZiUTBpSUhSaGNtZGxkRDBpWDJKc1lXNXJJaUJ5Wld3OUltNXZabTlzYkc5M0lqNUJjSEJzWlNBOEwyRStlbnRlciB0aGUgbWluaSA8YSBocmVmPSJodHRwOi8vd3d3Lmhvc3RpbmdraXRhLmNvbQ0iIHRhcmdldD0iX2JsYW5rIiByZWw9Im5vZm9sbG93Ij50YWJsZXQgPC9hPg==space, and then decide to effectively pull out by choosing to bring the most minimal updates possible to the PGEgaHJlZj0iaHR0cDovL2hvc3RpbmdraXRhLmNvbQ0iIHRhcmdldD0iX2JsYW5rIiByZWw9Im5vZm9sbG93Ij5pUGFkIG1pbmkgPC9hPg==3.

So is the Nexus 9 the silver bullet Google needs to keep up the Android tablet charge? The Android market share is increasing, but at the cheaper end of the market where the quality isn't always as high.

So teaming with HTC to offer an high-power, between-big-and-little tablet seems to be a good move if Google wants to kickstart the lust for the top end tablet.

Nexus 9 review

It's got some might competition - the Samsung Tab S is a rather lovely device in the Android space, and comes in 10.5- and 8.4-inch sizes, to flank this 9-inch (well, 8.9-inch) option. There's obviously the powerful and sleek iPad Air 2, and even Sony's Z3 Compact Tablet is a decent choice.

Nexus 9 review

So what's the big deal with the HTC Nexus 9? With a price tag of £319 ($399, about AU$450) for the 16GB option, and £399 ($479, about AU$545) for the bigger 32GB choice, this isn't the cheap Nexii we're used to. It's a powerhouse with some of the best internals on the market.

Design

The design is clearly led by HTC here, building on Asus' rubberised Nexus 7 and adding in some premium finishes. The larger device - which is now much wider by choosing a 4:3 screen ratio, rather than the 16:9 widescreen that's brilliant for movies - has the same feel to the back, but now comes with a metallic rim.

Nexus 9 review

This aids grip as well as improving the aesthetics of the tablet - and while in the black version it's harder to notice, the chamfered silver edges on the white (ish) model looks a lot more high-end.

There's no microSD slot here, which I've come to expect on most Android tablets, meaning the extra cost of the 32GB model looks like the only way to safeguard yourself from larger apps or big HD movie libraries. The battery seems large enough at 6700mAh, but with the higher-res 2K screen it might need all that juice.

Nexus 9 review

Nexus 9 review
Same resolution as the iPad Air 2 and sharper - but colours not quite as vivid

The overall design of the Nexus 9 means that, unless you're blessed with massive hands, this is a two-palmed device to use easily. That's not a real problem as it's pretty light to hold, but I did miss the ability from the Nexus 7.

Speaking of the screen, it's a decent effort indeed without being mind blowing. It's certainly high-res enough to match the iPad Air 2 in terms of pixel count, which means by having a 0.8-inch smaller display increases the sharpness.

Nexus 9 review

I didn't notice anything looking particularly crisp in general use, but then coming from using both the iPad Air 2 and mini 3 from recent reviews, perhaps that's because my eyes are used to such clarity.

That said, I was very impressed with the deep blacks and overall contrast ratio of the screen, which meant I certainly had no gripes watching high-res YouTube clips during my testing time.

Interface

The Nexus 9 I was using was a developer's version of Android 5 / Lollipop, which means I was essentially playing with Android L.

That said, it's a really nifty upgrade and it combines well with the larger and wider screen size on offer. Loading TechRadar on the Chrome browser wasn't the fastest experience, with a few lags with swiping, but that's very possibly down to not being final build.

Nexus 9 review

Everything else was swift and I enjoyed the new UI touches. The icons that twist around as you drag the notifications bar from the top of the screen, the unobtrusive windows asking which apps you'd like to use at the bottom, contextual menus - all looking very slick.

Nexus 9 review

The real downside I noted - and it's not a big one, given it's not a key part of the tablet experience - is the camera. Like every Nexus device, this seems more like a proving ground for the software than allowing users to take great photos.

Nexus 9 review

The Lens Blur effects just didn't work (again, possibly due to early software) and the overall snap quality wasn't high at all. The controls were nice and simple though, with swipes left and right getting you into your gallery or letting you choose new photo modes.

Nexus 9 review

There's even the chance to up the control level to include extra manual controls, so it's a nice mix for the casual and more professional user - although I need to see it with a better sensor, optics and, well, not on a tablet.

CPU

The big thing to note here is that HTC has switched away from Qualcomm here to go with an Nvidia K1 chipset. This probably won't mean a lot to many users, save to say it really improves the speed under the finger when flicking through the Nexus 9 and making the graphical prowess that much better.

Nexus 9 review

However, it makes the new tablet a good bet for the future, as with a 64-bit architecture in the tablet and available on the new iteration of Android, the two together will result in more powerful and useful apps.

Nexus 9 review

That said, there's only 2GB of RAM at the heart of the Nexus 9, which means it won't really be able to take advantage of the 64-bit ability, but will have some slight performance enhancements. It's actually only a dual core CPU, but don't let that put you off as the early benchmarking numbers for this tablet have been very impressive.

I wasn't able to test the graphical powers of the tablet as I couldn't download any games onto it, but anecdotal evidence from around the web suggests it's going to be really rather fast indeed.

Early verdict

The HTC Nexus 9 is very much a, well, Nexus device. But without the lower price tag that used to accompany such devices. It does most things well, with a nice design, screen and packaging, while not forgetting to use a mediocre camera as usual.

But there's very little else here to wow (save for the impressive front facing, rich speakers), which again is a hallmark of Nexus devices.

Nexus 9 review
The front facing speakers are powerful but barely noticeable

That's not a bad thing though - just make sure you'll want that blank canvas, allowing you to slowly customise this well put together tablet into something you truly enjoy.

For those that like simplicity, the higher-cost iPad might be attractive, but for a basic tablet you can make your own, the Nexus 9 looks a good bet.

Hands on: Kindle Voyage review

Hands on: Kindle Voyage review

Is the ereader dying? It appears not if Amazon's latest punt, and the reactions to it I've had, are anything to go by.

This is an expensive device indeed, coming in at £170 compared to the sub £100 options from rivals (and Amazon itself, with the basic Kindle range).

But the Kindle Voyage isn't meant to compete - it's there to lead and be an attractive option for those that love their reading on a commute and are willing to invest a little more.

Kindle Voyage review

I have to say that in my early days of use with the Voyage, I'm already loathe to give it up. It's still just an ereader at the heart, and I had not problem with my Paperwhite at all. The brigher screen was clear and crisp, and the response time.

But Amazon has made the Voyage clearer, brighter and faster to interact with, and I've enjoyed all those elements.

Kindle Voyage review

The smaller size is nice too, enabling me to slip into a front pocket even with a cover on. (The origami cover, which annoyingly isn't bundled for the cost, is brilliant as a little stand / smart cover to unlock the ereader).

It's a little on the small side if I had any criticism, but the screen is so legible I had no issue day to day. I also really like that the display and frame are now one single pane of strengthened glass, making a very clean and smooth front to the Voyage.

Kindle Voyage review

The other big change is the ability to turn the page using the bezel once more, although this time it's through touch-sensitivity rather than a physical button.

Weirdly these buttons don't work well for me at all. But then again a few millimetres to the left or right there's a screen that I can tap and have the pages turn every time. It's annoying that the buttons are accurate at all though.

Kindle Voyage review

There are myriad new features coming to the interface that make the Kindle Voyage more powerful for reading than ever before, but they'll be coming to the Paperwhite and family too soon, so aren't really key selling points.

Kindle Voyage review

I'll dig into these more in the full review to see if they really enhance the reading experience, or are just gimmicks to make it seem like Amazon 'gets' reading more than you do.

Early verdict

The Kindle Voyage is a premium device with a higher cost associated. However, like the smartwatches it shares a price tag with, you can make a real case for this as a Christmas gift. It makes reading nicer.

No matter how easy it is to read on a tablet or smartphone, there's no substitute for the feel of a real book. But the Amazon Kindle Voyage comes much closer than anything before, and it's much nicer to hold and carry around.

Jumat, 24 Oktober 2014

Apple keeps its eye on sapphire screens despite major set-back

Apple keeps its eye on sapphire screens despite major set-back

Despite losing its primary manufacturing partner, Apple is adamant on producing sapphire screen for its mobile devices.

Reuters reports Apple is currently reviewing its options to continue producing sapphire screens. The Cupertino company is even purportedly considering teaming up again with GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT), the company's former primary sapphire screen producing partner that recently filed for bankruptcy.

"We're going to continue evaluating GTAT's progress on larger sapphire boule (raw cylinders of artificially created sapphire) development, as well as consider other options for the facility," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said.

Between the sapphire screens used in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus' Touch ID sensor and a sapphire-laden Apple Watch still on its way, there are many reasons for Apple to continue its production of the scratch-resistant material.

Call it a separation phase

Earlier today a settlement between the two companies revealed GTAT was backing out of its current sapphire production business.

As part of the deal the advanced materials company was allowed to walk away with all its intellectual property. GTAT also agreed to pay back the $439 million (about £272m, AU$498m) Apple had prepaid as an investment.

While GTAT will stop making sapphire materials, it plans to focus on supplying the equipment needed to make sapphire materials. The two firms also agreed to continue in a technical exchange, sharing information on the development of new processes to grow next-generation sapphire.

So although they're broken up, Apple is strongly interested in getting back together with GTAT to produce more sapphire screens in the future. We just hope it doesn't delay the Apple Watch and its vague "early 2015" release time frame.

  • Check out the latest products to get a tiny sliver of sapphire, the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3